Last year I bought the Swamp Thing Omnibus and the Punisher Omnibus on the same day. Although I chose to read the Swamp Thing Omnibus first, it had been my intention to read the two back to back, but when I finished the Swamp Thing one I decided to move directly to the Alan Moore material. I got as far as “American Gothic” when my interest shifted, and I never did get back to the Punisher one. Until now. I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, but I thought I’d take a look at the early stories in an effort to discover the reason for his popularity.

SPIDER-MAN #129:

The Punisher enters the story quite abruptly, shooting a plaster statue of Spider-Man on the splash page while his ally, the Jackal, looks on. The Daily Bugle has reported that Spider-Man killed Norman Osborn, and that’s enough proof for the Punisher. While out web-swinging, Spider-Man’s “spider-sense” begins to tingle and he narrowly manages to avoid being taken out by a concussion grenade. Spidey confronts the Punisher on a rooftop, but is bound by a weapon which fires cables. The Punisher is about to execute him when Spider-Man breaks his bonds and turns the tables. The Jackal, hiding nearby, attacks Spider-Man from behind and he falls off the roof, apparently to his death the Punisher and the Jackal assume.

By the time Spider-Man regains his senses and returns to the roof, the Punisher and the Jackal are gone, but he finds a clue leading to the Punisher’s arms dealer. Back in the Jackal’s lair, an argument ensues. Whereas the Punisher was willing to kill Spider-Man, it goes against his “code” to allow him to die by accident. He leaves with the issue unresolved in order to get a new gun from his dealer. When he arrives he finds Spider-Man waiting for him. He also learns that it was the Jackal who left the incriminating evidence behind. Spidey knocks the Punisher out and leaves. The only thing we learn about the Punisher’s background in this initial outing is that he was a Marine for three years. Beyond that, he is clearly a villain,

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That is my favourite ever Punished story. 

Class.

Yeah, he was a square peg in the round hole of mainstream super-hero comics such as Spider-Man.

The Marvel Preview issue also had a short article summarizing his previous appearances, so this really is a good "jumping on" point.

My favorite is yet to come.

I did not like The Punisher in his early days, and for many years after, for a variety of reasons. But one of the big ones was that they wrote Spider-Man out of character to allow the character to remain free. The Spider-Man of "great responsibility" fame would never "turn a blind eye," as Jeff describes it above, to Frank murdering bad guys. Period. 

And as The Punisher became bigger and bigger, he showed up in more and more places, requiring more and more heroes to "turn a blind eye." People like Captain America. Reed Richards. Daredevil. It pained me to see these characters stretched every which way to allow a mass murderer to hang out with them.

It wasn't until the strip became a black comedy that I finally enjoyed it. That was Garth Ennis, I think. Whatever story it was, it involved Frank coming up with weirder and wilder ways to kill people (or try to, in the case of Wolverine), including running Logan over with a steamroller after he'd shot off his legs or something. Finally, the character was entertaining!

But if I take the guy seriously ... well, he just doesn't mix very well in the Marvel U.

I can only handle the Punisher in small doses. On his own is one thing but interacting with Spider-Man, then later with Daredevil and Captain America? No way they leave him loose! No matter how much he uses "mercy bullets"!

That being said, his design is top-notch, definitely one of the best from that period.

The Punisher's resemblances to the Executioner were multiplied instead of minimised when the character was fleshed out. That's where I think Marvel went too far.

Although he first appeared in a comic drawn by Andru, the Punisher was designed by John Romita from a costume concept by Conway.

I suppose the Executioner was probably also the model for DC's Nemesis from the early 80s.

My most ridiculous Punisher moment was when Batman let the Joker walk so Frank wouldn't kill him, and then let Frank walk after a warning not to come back.

As noted elsewhere, sending The Punisher to prison was one of the best ideas Frank Miller ever had.*

*As someone else noted somewhere else, Denny O'Neil actually wrote the story in which The Punisher went to prison.

The Baron said:

My most ridiculous Punisher moment was when Batman let the Joker walk so Frank wouldn't kill him, and then let Frank walk after a warning not to come back.

Wha -- ? I know I'm going to regret hearing the answer, but ask I must -- what are you talking about?

Jeff of Earth-J said:

He was an officer in Viet Nam and had been awarded the Medal of Honor, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and four Purple Hearts. He was up for the Medal of Freedom when his family was killed and he deserted.

The writer got a little carried away here. The Medal of Freedom is only awarded to civilians and, as far as I know, is decided by the President without any investigatory process. If Frank was being considered (a lengthy process) for the Medal of Honor after being awarded the others it would be closer to the real world.

I’ve been (mostly) offline for a couple of days, so I’ll cover three issues today, starting with…

MARVEL SUPER ACTION (one-shot):

This one is written by Archie Goodwin. It establishes Frank Castle’s former rank as captain. Story-wise, he hires a call-girl, then begins to relate his backstory in flashback. The story itself, pure vicarious self-actualization transferal for the reader, goes back to war journal entry #1.

SPIDER-MAN #161-162:

Len Wein picks up with war journal entry #381. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are out on a double-date with Harry Osborn and Liz Allen on Coney Island when a man on the roller coaster is shot by a sniper. The X-Man Nightcrawler is also there. He finds the abandoned murder weapon just before Spidey finds him. They fight. Nightcrawler realizes he mistake and teleports away, but witnesses Spider-Man retrieve his automatic camera. He doesn’t know why Spider-Man was taking pictures of their fight, but he’s protective of the “all-new, all-different” X-Men’s privacy. Meanwhile, the Punisher is tracking the killer who is using his own M.O.

Nightcrawler catches up with Spider-Man and apologizes for the misunderstanding, then sucker-punches him, takes his camera and exposes the film. They fight near the Roosevelt Island tramway. On the cable car is the sniper the Punisher came to kill. The three of them fight each other and the sniper gets away. The Punisher and Spider-Man agree to meet later, at a block party. Spider-Man is ambushed and is captured by Jigsaw, a criminal with a badly scarred face from when the Punisher knocked him through a plate glass window. Nightcrawler had been trailing the Punisher all day and came to Spider-Man’s aid just as he frees himself. Jigsaw flees, but Spider-Man pursues him and subdues him.

According to Mike's Amazing World, Amazing Spider-Man #161 came out the same month as X-Men #101. X-Men was a bimonthly, so this was a year after Wein's last X-Men issue, #95 (scripted by Claremont).

On the #162 cover the bend in the cable from Nightcrawler's weight makes no sense: it can support a cable car! Also, how could it be tense one side of the car and slack the other?

I remember this as being the first Spider-Man comic I  ever read.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

SPIDER-MAN #161-162:

Len Wein picks up with war journal entry #381. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are out on a double-date with Harry Osborn and Liz Allen on Coney Island when a man on the roller coaster is shot by a sniper. The X-Man Nightcrawler is also there. He finds the abandoned murder weapon just before Spidey finds him. They fight. Nightcrawler realizes he mistake and teleports away, but witnesses Spider-Man retrieve his automatic camera. He doesn’t know why Spider-Man was taking pictures of their fight, but he’s protective of the “all-new, all-different” X-Men’s privacy. Meanwhile, the Punisher is tracking the killer who is using his own M.O.

Nightcrawler catches up with Spider-Man and apologizes for the misunderstanding, then sucker-punches him, takes his camera and exposes the film. They fight near the Roosevelt Island tramway. On the cable car is the sniper the Punisher came to kill. The three of them fight each other and the sniper gets away. The Punisher and Spider-Man agree to meet later, at a block party. Spider-Man is ambushed and is captured by Jigsaw, a criminal with a badly scarred face from when the Punisher knocked him through a plate glass window. Nightcrawler had been trailing the Punisher all day and came to Spider-Man’s aid just as he frees himself. Jigsaw flees, but Spider-Man pursues him and subdues him.

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